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Dan Riley - Walk the Other Way - EP Review

Dan Riley is a man of many talents. Not only is the Lancashire-born troubadour a poet of some renown—having found a platform for his work in publications as sophisticated and widely admired as this one—he’s only gone and dropped a five-track EP of easy-listening alternative folk and smooth pop-rock that’s pretty much all hits and no misses. And the whole thing’s available for you to listen to immediately. Well shucks, this must be your lucky day.

Evocative of a host of great forebears from The Beatles through Pink Floyd and John Martyn, “Walk the Other Way” is a pleasing traipse through summery emotions with Riley’s earnest, crooning vocals running the gamut from plaintive and introspective to hopeful and energized, but always imbued with a vigorous, pleasantly-contagious optimism. Here’s a man who believes the words he’s singing—or perhaps, more to the point, feels the emotions that underpin them—and it gives the piece a vitality and genuineness that other, more cynical performers would most certainly fail to capture in working the same or similar material.

Riley opens with the title track, immediately drawing us into a toe-tapping folksy ballad with a hint of swing in its rhythm. Lyrically, “Walk the Other Way” is an earnest petition for healing old wounds and making amends amongst loved-ones and it works—safely avoiding the risk of coming off overly saccharine or sentimental—due to both Riley’s aforementioned willingness to commit fully in earnest to the feeling and, even more so, to the deftly-crafted lyrics themselves, verses which are brimming with smart compositional choices, deceptively simple rhythm and rhyme.

We drift effortlessly into “Glove Puppet”, a plaintive track with psychedelic guitars redolent of middle-era Pink Floyd. Even more than the previous one, Riley has the opportunity here to showcase both his vocal gusto and his ample talents as lyricist. A sorrowful appraisal of the state of the way things stand, this is perhaps the most complicated track in an EP that deliberately prides itself on simplicity as its chosen mode of expression.

The mezzanine track in this five-storey summer chalet just might be my favourite of a lovely bunch. “Places I Should Be” is a finger-snapping pop crooner that sees Riley resume the more optimistic underpinnings of the opening number, reflecting and philosophizing and wondering if it ain’t time to give up on doomed romance and move on down the line, just as many’s a sorrowful folk-balladeer has wondered aloud in the past before him.

Four of five is “Photos”, a sweet and simple lullaby of childhood memories and reflections that sees Riley at both his most earnest and most endearing. It’s truly a beautiful track that just might have your eyes misting up on you if you’re not damn careful with it.

Riley rounds out the beast with “Soldier’s Song”, a thematic twin to the earlier “Glove Puppet”, whose disappointment with its surroundings seemed more concerned with the interpersonal rather than the global. Here the condemnation is reserved for the wider world at large, the world of war and politics, so it’s no wonder there’s an extra bite of anger in the nonetheless upbeat expression of the track. Ultimately, it’s a fine way to end the EP, feeling both definitive and yet still somewhat open-ended as it plays us out. It leaves us both satisfied with what we’ve had and yet still hungry for more. With any luck, more will come. With this EP Riley’s proven his chops and deftly made it clear what he’s capable of. Is a full album to follow? Here’s hoping...


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“Walk the Other Way by Dan Riley”




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